Thursday, July 4, 2019

Cats vs Solar Torch

When I went outside this morning I noticed one of the solar torch lights we have along our walkway was just laying on the ground without its plastic post. It was right in the spot where we had it posted in the ground but the post that holds it up was nowhere to be found. I was confused, thinking who would want to steal a short plastic pole for a solar torch and not the light itself? So I went back through the security camera footage and at 12:49am two blurs zipped across the screen and plowed right through the torch post. When I ran it back at normal speed I saw it was two cats running full speed, one chasing the other, with the lead cat crashing through the solar torch so hard that the post flew into the nearby bush and the torch top fell right in place: https://youtu.be/z7aWxQ1JHfE

We were finally able to get American Home Shield to send out a different company for a second opinion on our air conditioner. They sent Cold Snap Air Conditioning, who arrived this morning. He found the same valve leak that JR from Service 1 found but after fixing that he did a test with nitrogen and also found a second leak in the condenser coil which Service 1 didn't even bother to check. He also concurred with our assessment that some of the duct work needed to be replaced. He then smelled a gas leak which he was able to confirm and get fixed. So we were very happy with his service.

Monday, July 1, 2019

HP Laptop Keyboard Install

I installed the backlit keyboard in my HP laptop this weekend. What a chore that was! I used my soldering iron to melt all the plastic rivets, carefully prying up the metal back plate as I went along until I could lift it enough to have access to the underside of the keyboard. I then had to melt more rivets so that I could pry up the keyboard. When I put the new backlit keyboard in I found that there were three notches which did not line up with the plastic pegs on the laptop. Argh!

The backside of the keyboard is metal so I couldn't just use scissors or a utility knife to cut out notches, and my tin snips don't offer the level of precision I would need, so the only option I could see was to cut off the plastic pegs that didn't align. There wasn't enough room to get even a small utility knife in there so I cut them with nail clippers and then filed them down the rest of the way with a metal nail file. Once I put the new keyboard in place I made some new notches with hot glue. I also used hot glue to recover all the plastic rivet tops I had melted away. I had tried spreading the plastic out with the soldering iron to make new heads but it just wasn't working.

I spent pretty much the entire day on this keyboard replacement and am happy that I got it done and it worked. This keyboard feels much nicer than the original and has a backlight so I can see what I'm doing even in low light. The whole process soured me on HP, though. They could have used screws or plastic clips but no, they designed it this way on purpose. Not cool, HP! I'll definitely think twice about purchasing an HP laptop in the future.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Laptop Repair Day

Last week I sold my old laptop to someone off of Craigslist, and only a few hours later he contacted me saying there was a spot on the back that was getting really hot, like burn-your-skin hot. He was understandably upset thinking I had pulled one over on him but relaxed when I offered to meet him the next day. When I did, he showed me a mark that had formed on the back cover and also where the plastic had melted a bit up near the top. Very weird. I had never seen anything like it. I returned his money and he still expressed an interest in buying it if I could figure out and fix whatever was causing this bizarre issue.

Later that night took the screen off to see what was happening behind it. As it turns out, it was the webcam wire. For some reason it was getting hot enough to melt plastic, and very quickly too. Only moments after turning on the laptop the wire got hot enough to become uncomfortable to the touch. Had I left it on much longer it surely would have melted more of plastic. There must have been some kind of short in there, though very weird that it only manifested the day I sold it.




I ordered a new cable which arrived today. The webcam wire is part of the display cable so I had to replace the whole thing which runs from the base of the laptop through the hinge and up to the screen. That meant I had to pretty much completely dissemble the entire laptop, carefully run the wire through the nooks and crannies, then put it all back together again. It took awhile but I got it done and now it's working good as new.

My next project will be installing a backlit keyboard into my current laptop. I've done keyboard replacements before and they've always been pretty simple, but this one is going to be a huge pain as it turns out the newer HP laptop designs do not actually provide access to the keyboard. If you want to replace one you're supposed to replace the entire palmrest area which is quite expensive. They trap the keyboard between the top of the palmrest and a metal plate underneath with the two parts being molded together with plastic rivets, so to get access those rivets have to be either cut off or melted with a soldering iron. And there are a lot of rivets! I am really not looking forward to this.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Jumping lizard tail!

On Monday when I opened the garage door in preparation for heading to my platelet donation appointment I noticed a lizard sitting near it. This lizard was smaller than the one we saw in our house last week. Apparently the noise and motion of the garage door rising scared it so much that its auto defense mode kicked in and its tail came off! The tail didn't just lay there or wiggle back and forth, it actually jumped and hopped and flopped around like it has having a seizure while the lizard remained relatively still. It was so weird looking! I can easily see how that would be distracting to a predator.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Southern alligator lizard

We found a little friend hiding out near our shoes yesterday evening, though perhaps little isn't the best adjective to use as this lizard was like 7 inches long not including the tail which was also quite long. I tried to encourage him to head out the front door but that didn't work and it instead made it's way down the hall where we lost sight of him. We had to leave so wasn't able to look for it. Then later we found it once again in our pile of shoes near the front door. I opened the storm door so it could get out if it desired then just let it be. Haven't seen it since so maybe it left. I looked it up online and believe it to be a Southern alligator lizard. Not dangerous but if it feels threatened it can release its bowels as a defensive technique so I'm glad I didn't try to grab it.

JR from Service 1 Heating and Air finally texted me back late this morning saying he couldn't get through to American Home Shield yesterday but that he was on hold with them now. I don't know if I believe that or not. I've never had any problem contacting AHS, but even if he did have a problem why didn't he text us yesterday to say so instead of just ghosting us all day? AHS then called to say we needed 8 lbs of Freon at $80/lbs and they would only cover $10/lbs so we would have to pay $560. They also said they wouldn't pay anything towards a new A/C unit if we decided to go that route. So now we're considering our options. We're in the process of getting an appointment to have an energy audit from SHHIP and have an appointment with another company to get an estimate for a new A/C unit.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

100+ degrees with no air conditioning

Our air conditioner hasn't been working at all this season. We had called American Home Shield who had assigned Service 1 Heating and Air. We actually had an appointment set up with them last month for a free A/C tuneup but he had called the day of to postpone because it needs to be a certain minimum temperature outside to do the tuneup properly. He said they would call back to set up another appointment but never did. That brings me to why they gave us a certificate for a free tuneup in the first place, which is because the last time they worked on their heater back in 2018 they failed to call us when the needed part came in so we had gone without heat unnecessarily for over a month. We had called last May to use this A/C tuneup certificate but again they never called us back. There have been other times that they were supposed to call us and didn't so this is a common theme with them. I say "them" but I think we've only ever had J.R. come out and 99% of the time when we call them we get voicemail so I kind of get the feeling they are a one-man operation. Looking over the Yelp review shows the same story over and over, with them either not showing up or not calling back.

Anyway, so we had an appointment set up for yesterday between 4pm and 6pm. JR arrived at 5:50pm, looked over our air conditioner and determined it had no more coolant/refrigerant in it. Apparently the cap on a valve had worked its way loose enough to cause a leak and so now it needs like a full gallon of coolant put back in which is going to cost a lot... he estimated like $500 a lot. And that's after the part that insurance covers. I can't help but think this could have been avoided if he had actually done a tuneup on the A/C last summer. JR was supposed to call our insurance first thing this morning to tell them the repair cost and they were supposed to call to tell us how much we would owe if we went through with it. We received no call from him or them all day. He gave me his cell number yesterday so I could contact him and I tried a few times but he never responded. So once again we have another day of 100+ degree weather without air, and no idea what is going on.

Thankfully, our friend Victor had a spare window A/C unit which he brought over yesterday evening and helped get set up so we were able to sleep in a nice cool room last night. With how hot it is I wish we could have spent all day in the bedroom but there was just too much to do. I'm definitely looking forward to heading back in there tonight for some sweet, sweet relief. How did people live in this weather before air conditioning?!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Garage Sale & Level Ceiling

We had a garage sale this Saturday, thanks to a neighbor, Tammy, who organized it for our whole block. This was the first time we've ever done a garage sale, at least as adults, and so we weren't very organized. It started at 7am so we were up by 6:30am, had a quick breakfast, then started hauling stuff outside. Treese sat out and took care of the all the people while I kept bringing stuff out, always finding more and more stuff stashed away that we no longer wanted. Tammy came around a few times to see how we were doing and we ended up doing pretty well. As I suspect is typical of garage sales, there was a bunch of stuff that didn't sell. Some of it we brought back inside which I'll try selling online, but we had several boxes of stuff that we just wanted to get rid of so we took them to the Goodwill Donation Center.

After the garage sale I continued working on the garage ceiling repair. I had finished the East side of the garage on Friday, but using a new technique. Based on advice I received from neighbors on Nextdoor.com as well a my friend Gary, I attached sections of 2x4 to the two metal posts so that they formed a T shape and would be able to support a larger section of drywall. Like before, I used the car jacks with the posts to raise the drywall, but this time I set up a couple old smartphones in the attic, pointing them so their cameras could see the gap between the drywall and stud. Then I used an app called IP Webcam to remotely view those video feeds on my phone so I could see exactly how high to raise the drywall while operating the jacks. Once it was flush, I skipped the furring strips and instead removed the old nails which had popped through the drywall texture then reused those holes to drive in some screws. I started with 2.5" deck screws since that's what I had on-hand, but once it became clear this was working properly I went and got some star drive 2" multi-material screws.

That technique seemed to have worked well, so I decided to do the same thing on the West side of the garage where I had used furring strips to help raise the drywall. I would jack up the posts to the current height of the ceiling along one of the furring strips, remove the furring strip, continue jacking up the ceiling until it was flush with the stud, then screw that in. Tammy had said earlier she would like to help so she came by when I started working on that. She was a big help as it meant I didn't need to set up the phones in the attic, instead I could just get up there and have her operate the jacks until I told her to stop. What a time saver! For the parts where she had nothing to do we just talked while I worked. She is very friendly and knows a lot of people in our neighborhood.

I didn't quite get the ceiling finished that evening so I went out on Sunday to finish it off. I got all the furring strips removed and the ceiling appears to be level again, though there are a bunch of screws visible and places where small sections of drywall texture fell off so I'll have to fix those next. I figure I can just use the spray texture to cover all the screw holes but not sure what to do about the couple of places where there are tears and gashes in the drywall. I'm also not sure what do to about the seams where there is/was drywall tape as it has peeled away in some areas. If there is some kind of drywall adhesive then perhaps I can use that to reattach some of the pealing tape, but there is other drywall tape which is now pinched between the ceiling and wall seams that I can't pull back out so not sure what to do about that.